UNAMSIL Press Briefing 12 Sep 2003

Report
from UN Mission in Sierra Leone
Published on 12 Sep 2003
(Near Verbatim)
PATRICK COKER, Spokesman
With Acting Military Spokesman

NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

UNAMSIL ACTING SRSG RECEIVES VISITING NIGERIAN LAWMAKERS

The Acting Special Representative of the Secretary General, Mr. Alan Doss on Monday 8 September, received a delegation of Nigerian lawmakers from the Committee on Army, Federal House of Representatives.

The five-man delegation led by Honourable Ado Audu Dogo said the purpose of their tour was to assess the current activities of Nigerian peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and get information that will facilitate their decision making process concerning the Nigerian Army.

Honorable Dogo commended the United Nations and its leadership for their support and encouragement towards the successful tenure of Nigerian peacekeepers in Sierra Leone.

"This is a historic visit by elected representatives of the people, especially with the "enthronement of democracy in Nigeria." he said.

"Restoring peace is a collaborative effort of policy makers and indeed the operators on the field and we are here to ensure that we fulfill such commitment," he said.

He confirmed that the Nigerian Parliament through its Committee would continue to support the good works of UNAMSIL in the process of restoring lasting peace to Sierra Leone and the sub region.

Welcoming them, Mr. Alan Doss said, "I am delighted that a delegation of African parliamentarians is visiting the mission". He noted that Nigeria played an important role in the peace process in Sierra Leone and the Sub region. "Your contribution has been commendable and you must collectively take a sense of pride in your troops and their leadership" He said.

Mr. Doss also commended President Obasanjo's personal commitment towards the peace process in Sierra Leone and the sub region. He cited the vanguard role played by Nigerian peacekeepers in the recent deployment to Liberia under the sub regional peace force, Economic Community of West African States Interposition Force (ECOMIL)

The Acting SRSG cautioned that, whilst a lot of progress had been made in Sierra Leone, there were many challenges ahead as UNAMSIL draws down its forces, adding that Nigerian peacekeepers will be among the last to leave Sierra Leone.

The delegation also paid a courtesy call on the Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Daniel Opande, and expressed their gratitude for his support and assistance to Nigerian peacekeepers.

ACTING SRSG DECORATES CIVPOL WITH UN MEDALS OF HONOUR

The Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Alan Doss was on Saturday September 6 joined at Hastings outside Freetown, by the Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) Brima Acha Kamara and UNAMSIL's Director of Administration Steinar Bjornsson and the Deputy Force Commander Major-General Sajjad Akram in decorating some 77 CivPol officers including the Commissioner of UNAMSIL Civilian Police (CivPol) Hudson Benzu, with the prestigious UN medals of honour. The medal is awarded to members of the military and police components of UN missions who complete 90 days of duty unblemished.

Congratulating the recipients of the medals, who came from 20 countries, Mr. Doss said they had distinguished themselves in helping strengthen the capacity of the SLP and assist the country in taking over the responsibility for internal security. The Acting SRSG said that 31 CivPol trainers are currently participating in the training of new SLP recruits and police personnel, and 83 serving as mentors in 17 SLP divisions across the country. "We also assist the SLP in key areas of development policy and planning, cross-border and airport policing and hopefully soon diamond mining policing." He said that even though much had been done to build the capacity of the SLP, more still needed to be done, adding that the force had a "critical and central role" to perform in consolidating the peace and in ensuring prosperity for Sierra Leone and its people.

The CivPol Commissioner, Hudson Benzu said CivPol's collaboration with the SLP and the Commonwealth police team in the country had borne fruits in a way that exemplified the ideals of the United Nations. He praised the SLP for their "unfailing professionalism", assuring that they would work with them to "build a bigger and stronger Sierra Leone Police". He praised his colleague medal recipients saying their performance had been exemplary.

The delegation, which also included UNAMSIL Chief Civilian Personnel Officer and other senior police officials, took a conducted tour of the facilities at the Hastings Police Training School rehabilitated with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the British Department for International Development and the Commonwealth.

UNAMSIL CHIEF MILITARY OBSERVER DECORATES MILOBS WITH UN MEDALS

The Chief Military Observer (CMO), and Deputy Force Commander of UNAMSIL, Maj. Gen. Sajjad Akram Wednesday 10 September 2003 at the Mission's Mammy Yoko headquarters decorated 70 Military Observers (MILOBs) with UN medals. UN medals are awarded to peacekeepers that spend three months within a mission area without committing any offence.

Speaking at the short but impressive ceremony, Maj. Gen. Akram told the Military Observers, that as, "MILOBs you are very important in UNAMSIL. I'm sure you will do your utmost to make this Mission a success," and wished them all further success in their stay in Sierra Leone.

The CMO noted that when he visited all their team sites throughout the country, he was impressed with what he saw, and congratulated them for rightfully earning UN medals. "You are excellent ambassadors of your countries," he said and once again wished them success in their duties.

UN CALLS FOR CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES IN LIBERIA

The UN Special Humanitarian Coordinator in Monrovia, Ross Mountain, has called upon Liberian combatants to cease fighting following reports of renewed violence in Kakata, 50 kilometres north-east of the capital.

The clash in Kakata between government militia and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) seriously endangered the lives of war victims and those trying to help them. Although the fighting was not prolonged, preliminary reports indicate that as many as 3,000 civilians fled the area.

The instability comes as the humanitarian community had begun to make inroads into addressing some of the needs of Liberians who had fled recent fighting. Some 650 West African peacekeepers from Guinea-Bissau established a base in Kakata just hours after the clash.

Meanwhile, Security Council holds deliberations on Liberia early next week, and in another development, the transfer of some 30,000 internally displaced persons who had been living in 116 temporary shelters and buildings in and around Monrovia, began yesterday.

SECRETARY GENERAL MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11 TERRORIST ATTACKS

In a statement yesterday to mark the second anniversary of the massive terrorist attacks on the United States, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "...I extend my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims. The trauma, wounds and losses of that awful day are still keenly felt by all of us. And since then, many other innocent people throughout the world -- including, last month in Baghdad, dedicated staff of the United Nations -- have been killed by this global scourge.

"All nations must work together in the fight against terrorism, which is an affront to the spirit and purposes of the United Nations, and has become a leading threat to international peace and security. I hope nations will also bring similar determination to bear in confronting the other ills that plague our world.

"For today, however, let us remember those who died, and honor the sacrifice made by those heroic public servants who risked, and in too many cases lost, their lives in the effort to save others."

At an interfaith ceremony earlier in the morning at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York, which marked commitment to the work of the United Nations, Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations Gillian Sorensen read out a message on the Secretary-General's behalf, noting the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks and adding that this year, the UN family also has been jolted by a terrorist attack: last month's bombing in Baghdad.

But, the Secretary-General says in the message, "if our hearts are filled with sorrow, if our minds are unsettled by images of violence, our spirits can still draw strength from occasions such as this, when people of different faiths and cultures come together in friendship and in prayer. We need that strength."

UNAMSIL FORCE COMMANDER VISITS SECTOR CENTRE AND WEST CONTINGENTS

The Force Commander of UNAMSIL, Lt. General Daniel Ishmail Opande visited Nepalese Battalion 4 (NEPBATT 4) Task Force Headquarters, and a Platoon of Bangladeshi Engineers 3 (BANENGR 3) located in Moyamba in Sector Center. He was received by the Commander Sector Center, Brigadier General Ahsan Habib and Commanding Officer of Nepalese Battalion 4 (NEPBAT 4), Lt Col Jagdish Chandra Pokharel.

The Force Commander (FC) was given an update on the work being undertaken on the 70.km Songo-Moyamba Road. Apart from the immense benefits the road will bring to local communities, it will keep the main supply route open for UNAMSIL Forces. The FC commended the Bangladeshi Engineers for the excellent work they were doing in rehabilitating roads with limited equipment and manpower and under extreme weather and climatic conditions. He asked them to conduct a check of the whole road in October and put up appropriate road markings

In Moyamba the Force Commander, visited the Nepalese 4 (NEPBATT 4) Headquarters, and was briefed by the Commanding Officer, Lt Col Jagdish Chandra Pokharel on the duties and operations of the Battalion, which includes Checkpoint duties, Robust Patrols, Information gathering and Provision of Security and Humanitarian Assistance. The Force Commander congratulated the Commanding Officer (CO) for the detailed brief, and congratulated the battalion for having quickly settled down in its Area Of Responsibility, and adapting to the local environment.

On the same tour, General Opande, on Thursday 11 September 2003, visited Bangladeshi Battalion 8 (BANBATT 8) at Magburaka and Kenyan Battalion 10 (KENBATT 10) at Mazeras Camp at Masiaka. He was accompanied by the Commander Sector Center Brigadier General Ahsan Habib and Commander Sector West, Brigadier Nuhu Bamalli, Deputy Sector Center Col Muhammad Sarwar Azam, Kenyan Contingent Commander Colonel Raymond Cheruiyot, the Assistant Chief of Information operations Colonel Eliad Mutwale, and other Senior Officers from the Force Headquarters. The Force Commander congratulated the Sector Center and West Commanders, for the excellent job they were doing in their respective commands. While addressing officers and men of BANBATT 8, Lt General Opande said that they had performed their tasks with dedication and a high degree of patriotism, and confirmed that they would be deployed into Liberia at the end of their existing tour of duty, in October. Bangladesh has been approached by the United Nations to provide troops in Liberia. He congratulated them for a job well done and said that he hoped that their experiences in Sierra Leone would be transferred to Liberia.

The Force Commander and his entourage, also visited Kenyan Battalion 10 (KENBATT 10) at Masiaka where he was received by the Commanding Officer, Lt Col Johnson Mogoa Ondieki. During the visit, the FC inspected their accommodation lines, including those at Makite and the local community projects. He said he had seen a lot of improvement in Masiaka, Makite and Magbontoso, and was happy with the progress, wishing the contingent a successful tour of duty.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Q: What is the security situation in the country? Is GHANBATT 7 leaving for good?

Military Spokesman: The security situation in the country remains calm, stable and peaceful. GHANBATT 7 is undergoing a process of rotation. After a period of six to 12 months, battalions rotate.

Q: What is the present strength of UNAMSIL?

Military Spokesman: Presently, UNAMSIL has strength of about 12,000 troops. These peacekeepers are deployed across the country, with the largest number of troops in Sector East or the eastern province. According to the adjustment, drawdown and withdrawal plan, we're going to have a reduction of forces again next month when we have other battalions leaving the country and others adjusting or moving. I hope that by the first or second week of November, we're going to have the second phase of ADW and then we start on the other programmes.

Q: What message do you have for the people of Liberia now that you are about to celebrate the International Day of Peace?

Mr. Coker: First and foremost, Liberians should by all means make sure that they observe the International Day of Peace because Liberia is a member of the United Nations. Second, they can take a cue from our experience here and stop all hostilities, and they should respect whatever agreement they have signed in Accra, Ghana and allow peace to reign.

Let me quickly mention, as a matter of general information, that the International Day of Peace will be marked this year in an elaborate manner, and the Ministries of Social Welfare, Youth and Sports, Education, Science and Technology will take the lead and UNAMSIL will also take part.

We want to use this opportunity to invite you to cover events to mark this wonderful day as a way of expressing the fact that the peace is really here to stay.

Let me use this opportunity to invite you to all our activities. We're going to have quiz competitions, Peace Day Run, Flag-Raising ceremony and other activities. We'll give you more information after this press briefing.

For your information, the Chief of Public Information, Mr. Kemal Saiki, is now in Liberia but he will be with us next week. Have a wonderful weekend.

UNAMSIL Headquarters, Mammy Yoko, P. O. Box 5, Freetown, Sierra Leone Tel: 232-22-273-183/4/5 Fax: 232-22-273-189